Spotlight on… Research
In our latest Spotlight on series we shine a light on the research function in SCRA. We talk to our Information and Research Manager, Dr Gillian Henderson to find out more…
So why does SCRA carry out research?
We carry out research to understand the lives of children, young people and their families who are involved in the Hearings System. This then allows us to make improvements to the way we do things, whether it’s our facilities, our processes or our policies. Plus our research can also help us influence practice and policy more widely for children in care. Some of our research has led to significant improvements and developments.
How does it work?
We use a mixed method approach to research. Our main source of information is SCRA’s case files. These contain reports from social work, the police, health and education; and there’s also court and Hearings decisions. We also carry out surveys, as well as focus groups and one to one interviews with professionals, carers, parents and young people.
What about involving young people in your research?
Over the years we have worked with Hearings-experienced young people on many occasions. Our first piece of work with care-experienced young people was back in 2006 – Big Words and Big Tables. This was hugely influential research, which ultimately led to the start of the removal of the large meeting tables from Hearings rooms and better advocacy support for children and young people. We supported our Modern Apprentices on Hearings centre inspections which looked at facilities and services from a young person’s perspective. This led to publication of the report Fit For Us in 2011 and a number of improvements to our Hearing centres, including better information materials, suggestions boxes and water fountains. Currently, young people from Our Hearings, Our Voice are working as co-researchers with us on virtual Hearings and children’s participation in them.
What about working with partners?
We have carried out a number of key pieces of research with many partners, including the Scottish Government, Barnardo’s Scotland, Who Cares? Scotland and several universities, including Strathclyde, Stirling, Lancaster and Robert Gordon’s. We worked with multiple groups and organisations to produce the research report ‘An exploration of ethnic minority communities’ understanding and awareness of child protection and the Children’s Hearings System in Scotland’. More recently we worked with the Disabled Children Child Protection Network to produce an exploratory piece of research about the Development and Piloting of a Children’s Disability Toolkit.
What impact has your research had?
One of the standouts for me was the creation of the partnership Stand Up For Siblings. This stemmed from publication of ‘Supporting Sibling Relationships of Children in Permanent Fostering and Adoptive Families’ – joint research between SCRA and the University of Strathclyde. Since the partnership was launched in 2018, Stand Up For Siblings has made significant progress, with major changes to legislation introduced to keep brothers and sisters in care together.
Another more recent development has been the establishment of UCES (Understanding Child Exploitation in Scotland). This is another multi-agency partnership which stemmed from research carried out by SCRA and Barnardo’s Scotland. ‘Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System’ was the first national study of child sexual exploitation in Scotland. UCES brings together expertise from the public, third and academic sectors to raise awareness and influence policy and practice on all forms of child exploitation. We are currently planning a virtual event for next year – watch this space for more information!
So what’s next?
We are working on a number of really interesting research projects. Just now we are planning a research programme on the impact COVID-19 has had on children and young people in the Hearings System and are working with young people from Our Hearings, Our Voice on this. We were commissioned to do research by the Scottish Government on young people age 12 to 15 who offend to inform the Age of Criminal Responsibility. Another current research project is about children under age of 12 years in residential care. Both reports will be out by the end of 2021.